Friday, October 3, 2014

San Francisco to Napa: (And than back to San Francisco) The 4th & Final Post

I left off with our vineyard day in the Napa countryside, which left us rested and rejuvenated after a grueling 30 hour race!

Monday morning, about half of the crew had flights back to AZ out of SFO. So we packed up the van for the last time, and made our way back to SF.

Ryan and I stayed at The Prescott, which is a boutique hotel 1 block away from Union Square. It was wonderful, and we'd definitely come back. It definitely had that historical, San Francisco-charm with a hint of elegance. It had rolling staircases, and crown molding, and just details you don't get at a Marriott.

We had 1 day left in the city, so we set out on a mission! We put on our good walking shoes, dropped our bags,and set out. We walked through some of the shops on Union Square, like the 3-story Louis Vuitton store housing $300 belts. Or the 8-story Macy's. It is amazing how these places stay open?!

Then we walked through China-town,North Beach, and to Fisherman's Wharf to get our prized lunch we had been waiting for all week: Crab Roll and clam chowder in a bread bowl. This was the most mouth-watering part of the Wharf (for me, anyways).

It's an area where the street is just lined with these food stands serving up crab legs, crab sandwiches served on a fresh roll, and chowder. It may be touristy, but when it Rome, right? The energy here just makes me happy.

Ryan and I ordered a bread bowl of chowder and a sandwich and shared the 2 for lunch. The stand we chose was called "Fisherman's Grotto" (which is a satellite stand of a nice seafood restaurant on the wharf). We washed our feast down with an Anchor Steam lager. All for less than $20! We enjoyed these on picnic tables overlooking the marina......it was perfect.

There is also a place called Boudin Bakery that is a staple of SF. There is a window where you can watch the workers make these impressive molds of bread. And the vents pump out the fresh smell of fresh-baked sour dough bread. My heart aches for anyone who has Celiac Disease/Gluten Intolerance :(. 



We walked over to the SS Jeremiah O'Brien, which was on Ryan's list of things to see. I'm so glad we took the time to tour it! It is a Liberty Ship from WWII, and it is one of the survivors that stormed Normandy on D-Day. Being that my dad served in the Navy, and my Grandpa served in the Merchant Marines in WWII, this was super interesting for me to see what a ship really looks like (I've never been on one). From the rooming quarters, to the chow hall, and the engine room -- I was in awe!

I have to say I have some serious respect for the men that operated that engine room!! I cannot fathom being in that loud, oily, dark, steamy room day in and day out.


 
This is photo of the submarine that was next to the SS Jeremiah O'Brien, which we did not tour.
The captain's room. I cannot imagine being responsible for steering a boat of such mass.

 
Here I am on deck - which Alcatraz island in the background!

 
I took a picture of this, because it made me laugh. I think this needs to be a sign in our house. (Anyone else married to an engineer could probably relate to this one....)

 
We had reservations for a sunset cruise that night with the Red and White Fleet. I would definitely recommend this to anyone visiting SF, as well! Especially the sunset cruise. It launches from Pier 39 1/2 and takes you around Angel Island, Alcatraz, Sausalito, under the bridge, and as you cross back the sun is down, and you return to the Pier to the stunning city lights of San Francisco! The boat has appetizers, a bar, and a live musician (who seriously exceeded our expectations). All for $60/pp. Which is extremely reasonable! We got some of our favorite photos on this cruise! (And best hand-holding and snuggling as the cool coastal breeze graced our faces)


This was a zoomed-in crappy I-Phone photo of Alcatraz.
 
This appears to be some type of old living quarters on one of the islands.

 
The boats of Sausalito island.
 







After our cruise, we had a 1.5 mile walk back to our hotel at Union Square. We made one last pit stop in North Beach at a little Gelato shop. We sat at a street-side table, enjoyed the sweet decadent taste of gelato, and basked in one heck of a trip!!


Thank you, San Francisco! We will be back some day......



Sunday, September 28, 2014

San Francisco to Napa: Part 3. Wine Day.

Where I left off was our 30 hour Ragnar race....

Our team crossed the finish line Saturday afternoon at 3:30. Which means from Friday at 4am-Saturday 3:30pm, we were either running or in a van. And we were quite delirious tired.

Saturday night we went to dinner at Oenotri in downtown Napa. It was an Italian restaurant that made their pasta to order. I had a delicious rigatoni with a red sauce with fresh basil and walnuts. It was like red sauce meets pesto. At that point - saltine crackers would've tasted like gourmet cuisine .....so this meal was exceptionally incredible!!! #hungry #famished #dehydrated

Happy, hungry, celebratory faces

The beautiful vines ready for harvest!


We were in bed by 8:30 and slept until 7 am! Some of the team had flights to catch in the morning early Sunday morning, but there were 7 of us who stayed in Napa to tour wineries - so we had a busy day ahead of us.

We actually knew a girl through the race that lives in San Francisco, and she offered to be our designated driver for $30/pp. She was amazing and acted as our own personal tour guide, and knew so much about the area. It couldn't have turned out better.

1st stop was Cheateau Montelena . This was by far my favorite vineyard. It was an older vineyard, with an very interesting history. The most intimate of the 3 wineries we saw, and we spent a great deal of time in the tasting room learning about the history.

This was the pond that you were "greeted" with as you approached the tasting room. It was so peaceful.

This was their building where their casks were stored. (All those bins are full of grapes!!!)

More grapes! Don't they look too perfect to be real? We were so blessed to get to experience wine country during harvest season!


I dare you to walk by this room, and not have your mouth start watering! You got the sweetest smell of sugar and grapes. Mmmm...

This was a quick photo I took of the production process. This belt pushed the grapes through a machine that removes the grapes off the vine! So cool! Can you imagine working here?!
 
 
Stop #2 was Rambauer Winery in St. Helena. This was a bit of a more "commercial" winery. But they had some incredible views, and a gorgeous rose garden. And their Chardonnay's were divine ( and I don't even like chardonnay). If you are looking for a vineyard with breath-taking views and space to just walk around and enjoy, I recommend this one....


 

I'm not sure what is behind this little door. But our guess is little wine elves. Kind of like the Keebler elves?

The greenery is just perfect.

After spending 30 hours in a mini van together, it feels natural to get 7 of us cuddled up on a bench like this. ;)

Stop # 3 was lunch! We had reservations at a place called Farmstead in St. Helena, which is a part of Long Meadow Ranch. This restaurant was amazing. It was a farm-to-table with an open kitchen. They also had their own tasting room, but we did not try the wine - as this was our "non-wine stop". I had the "hash" - which was made with braised beef, poached egg, and beets. It was melt-in-your-mouth incredible.

Our 4th and final stop was Domaine Carneros in Napa. This was probably the most impressive-looking tasting room. They specialized in the sparkling wines, so we topped off our celebration with some bubbly!!


 
I'm not a huge sparkling wine fan, but it was still wonderful. The atmosphere just makes everything perfect.

Before you think "how drunk were you guys by the end of the day?" I'm going to make a clarification. We actually didn't drink that much at all. I'm explaining this, because the next few pictures may have you wondering. Due to the fact that Napa charges $30/tasting, we shared the tastings. Which is actually a really good idea so you don't get too tipsy, and can really just enjoy the tastes of the wine. (Totally recommend it, actually! Especially if you're a light-weight like we all are)

As we were leaving this tasting room, there happened to be a large group of people taking pictures in strange monster-looking costumes. Eyebrows were raised. But we had to inquire. When in Rome, right? They apparently were promoting a Monster's Ball - and were going to the vineyards in the costume. This tasting room did not allow them in due to their attire, but as we were leaving (and out of site of the staff) - we snagged a fast photo-shoot with them. It was the strangest and most hilarious moment of the day!!



The guys did take a look at the merchandise in the tasting room, to get some sun hats......

And Ryan really wanted to get a fedora. But I shut that down faster than you can say "hat" ;)

We didn't approve of those hats, either.
 
It may not have been the classiest moment, but we weren't disrupting the other customers (we were off the premises). And how often do you find a random group of people in costumes in Napa? You only live once!
 
Ryan and I decided these are our "Napa faces"
 





Such a wonderful day! So many good memories and laughs were enjoyed!!